The most bitterly fought election Kerala has seen in decades is over now. In many ways, this could be a watershed election. If the state witnesses a continuation of the United Democratic Front rule, it will be the first time in about four decades an incumbent government is retaining power. If the Left Democratic Front seizes power and elects a new chief minister, that could again be an interesting twist. If the Bharatiya Janata Party gets even one seat, that will be a historic win for the party. And a worst case scenario could be a hung assembly with no party being able to claim an absolute majority, the first such development in 50 years. In another three days, nevertheless, the drama will end. Or another will begin!
The five years to this election have offered several lessons for the UDF and the LDF. For one, neither of them can now afford to take the BJP lightly. The party has grown in strength and will play a more decisive role in Kerala politics in coming years, let's face it. In hindsight, both the UDF and the LDF should've announced their choice of chief minister if they were to form a government. Failure to project a leader has somewhat affected their campaigns; only when a leader is projected, the people will vote with confidence and a victory becomes easier, as we saw in the case of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister in the parliamentary elections of 2014 and Nitish Kumar as chief minister in the Bihar election.
Having said this, what should be the priorities of the new government? This is my list:
1) Focus on development: People in Kerala now view development as a critical factor to assess the government of the day. They want the politicians to work for the progress of the state, and surely don't expect one political front to scuttle the work of their predecessors just because of the difference in ideologies. The work that the current UDF government has started must not only be carried on by the new government, but it should also further strengthen the process. Projects such as the Vizhinjam port, Kannur airport and Kochi metro must be continued at a faster pace. Work on the Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode light metro needs to start. We need more of our cities to become `Smart Cities’ and it's time that we built new roads and widen the existing ones. Another area where we need to focus is the revival of an inland water way connecting Kovalam to northern Kerala. However, no development project that has an adverse impact on the environment or harms the public at large should be permitted or pursued.
2) Zero corruption: People aren't going to tolerate an iota of corruption in governance. They've had enough. The new government must ensure that there won't be any corrupt elements right from the top. At the same time, politicians also need to keep in mind that you can't just make allegations of corruption to tarnish your rivals; you need to substantiate what you say. Otherwise, such strategies would backfire on you. Those taking power must also keep in mind that they are living and working in a digital world, where everything is constantly monitored and recorded.
3) Education: The standard of education in our state has unfortunately slumped to abysmally low levels. Our education system, especially at school level, needs to be totally revamped. The higher education sector needs to be broken up, and we need to create new universities, for the existing ones have failed miserably. We must be open to welcoming other educational institutions, so that our children don't need to leave the state for higher studies.
4) Health: No Keralite should ever be denied access to quality healthcare because he or she can't afford it. The government should make sure that our people get support and insurance protection when it comes to healthcare. The new government must step up the work on the e-health program that has already been initiated.
5) Weaker Sections: The uplift of the scheduled castes and tribes is an area where both the LDF and the UDF governments of the past miserably failed. The bureaucracy that was supposed to work for the progress of these sections of the society hasn't done that yet. It's time we saw some real action in this front. Some work has happened for the uplift of the fisher folk, but a lot more need to be done. Substantial work has happened in the area of persons with disability; this needs to be strengthened and taken forward.
6) Training: We need to train our youth, so that they get jobs that they aspire for. This can only happen through skill development and new job creations through encouraging entrepreneurship. We also need to take steps that will attract investments in job creating industries.
The future for Kerala is bright; we only need to seize it through good governance. Let there be better and more governance and lesser government.